Hartford Businessman Creates Campaign Committee To Seek House Seat
By DANIEL E. GOREN | Courant Staff Writer
May 08, 2008
Abraham L. Giles has tried several times over the past two decades to regain a seat he once held in the state legislature.
And at 81, with his health uncertain and his business deals with Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez under investigation, Giles appears ready to make another go at it, according to papers filed with state election officials.
The north Hartford businessman has established a campaign committee to seek the 5th House District seat now held by Marie Kirkley-Bey. Last month, Giles said he was considering the run but had not officially announced his intentions. Giles declined to comment Wednesday.
"I don't want to talk to you unless you print something that is true," Giles said. "The only thing you ever printed about me that was true was my name."
Kirkley-Bey said Wednesday that she is planning to seek re-election, but declined to comment on Giles' candidacy.
"I'm gearing up for a race come August, for the primary," she said.
Giles served eight terms as a state representative from the city's North End, becoming one of the city's more powerful political bosses because of his ability to bring voters to the polls.
During his tenure, from 1972 to 1988, Giles earned two reputations — one among his fellow legislators and one among his constituents.
In the mid-1970s, while serving as a state representative, Giles was ranked by his peers as the worst legislator in the General Assembly. He had a reputation for missing votes vital to his constituents. One example was in 1980, when Giles was absent during a vote that changed the formula for state aid given to schools. The formula was approved by a 72-71 vote, and cost Hartford $7 million.
Giles was heavily criticized by the city's educators for missing the vote. He explained his absence by saying he was working in his district to organize voters for a primary election and get the public more involved in the electoral process. "I do wish I had been there," he added.
In 1984, Giles was made chairman of the General Assembly's Program Review and Investigations Committee, despite the fact that during his two years on the committee he missed 30 out of 51 committee meetings, according to news reports.
And while he was criticized at the Capitol as a do-nothing legislator, Giles had a distinctly different reputation on the streets of his district, where he was known for being a tireless advocate for people with everyday needs — a grass-roots politician who knew how to win elections and wielded significant power as a result. Giles became known for taking political positions, not because of the whims of friend or foe, but to gain maximum political advantage.
As Giles once said of his philosophy: "There's no permanent political friends, no permanent political enemies, only political interests."During his tenure, Giles repeatedly found himself in some kind of trouble — landing before the state elections enforcement office for campaign violations on several occasions, such as for accepting donations off the books; failing to pay his taxes on time; lobbying for a business partner to get a city grant without disclosing his relationship to him; and renovating his home without a building permit.
Giles built a parking lot management business and an evictions moving business during his later years as a state representative, and some said he used his political influence to gain city contracts for both. It is Giles' business and its dealings with Perez that has drawn the interest of state criminal investigators.
Investigators for a grand jury are looking into possible corruption at city hall. The investigation has not been limited to Giles, but investigators have been interested since at least February 2007 in a no-bid parking lot deal between the former legislator and the city.
Not long after the investigation started, Giles' health declined. He was hospitalized in July 2007 and resigned from the city's town committee. He then returned to the committee in March to replace another member who was too sick to attend a meeting. He said at the time, "She's sick. And I'm sick, too. That's an oxymoron, huh?"
After losing his seat in the General Assembly in 1988, Giles tried and failed on three previous occasions to regain the office, with the last attempt in 1992, when he lost to Kirkley-Bey.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at